Ginza Vomero – Italian Lunch in the Shadows of the Kabukiza

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Just behind the mammoth Kabukiza theater in Ginza is an energetic Italian pizzeria and trattoria, Vomero. The welcome is warm and there is a lot of activity in the open kitchen, especially around the wood-burning pizza oven. The 1,580 JPY lunch course menu starts off with an appetizer plate of salad and some small bites like mortadella, omelet, and focaccia. The main is a pizza, pasta, or risotto, and finishes with a dolce and cafe.

The pizza is classic Neopolitan-style with a thick, chewy, charred crust. The Margherita had a generous amount of cheese and tomato sauce and is a big pie. Good to come hungry.

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The lasagna was one of the best I’ve had in Tokyo with a flavorful sauce and filled with meat. I will come back just for this lasagna.

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We came in before the noon rush and the restaurant quickly filled up. There is a second floor with more seating and that too was full. The attentive staff are friendly and kept my glass water filled, something that gets overlooked at many places. The restaurant has nice buzz and it was obvious that many customers are regulars. A great spot for lunch in Ginza, just come early or late.

My girlfriend forgot her gloves at the restaurant. We had walked about two blocks when she realized it and when we turned back to return to the restaurant a server was running towards us with her gloves. What is amazing about this is that we had taken two turns (a left and then a right) from the restaurant.

Pizzera Trattoria Vomero

Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-12-8

03-6278-8984

Gotta Get – Hiroshima Lemosco

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I am addicted to a product called Yuzusco, a yuzu and Tobasco like sauce that is great for pizza, pasta, eggs, you name it. Was thrilled when I cam across this Lemosco at the Hiroshima Antenna Shop in Ginza.

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It is very similar to the Yuzusco, but lighter in flavor. Sometimes the Yuzusco can be too intense. Have loved this with food and next on the list of things to try it with will be cocktails, like a Bloody Mary.

This is made from lemons, vinegar, green chili peppers, and salt. No preservatives or additives. This one is from Yamato Foods.

There are so many great condiments in Japan and these make the perfect gift to bring home for friends.

 Hiroshima Antenna Shop TAU

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-6-10

10:30 – 20:00

Ginza New Castle Curry

New Castle1

New Castle Curry in Ginza was a great little spot for a bowl of spicy curry topped with an over-easy egg. When I last went, while researching my book, Food Sake Tokyo, it was a second-generation shop in an old, wooden building in the glamorous Ginza district. While shiny new buildings were built up around it, New Castle was a treasured spot for many. Only one type of curry was served here, but at different portion sizes, with or without the egg. Each dish was named after a station on the Keihin-Tohoku line like Kamata or Shinagawa. I was so excited to include it in Food Sake Tokyo, as it was that unique little mom-and-pop shop with really good, simple food.

Sadly New Castle closed down two years ago. I would walk by in mourning, sad that I didn’t make it in one last time. I wasn’t the only one. I often saw others stop and stand in front of the shuttered shop, almost offering up a prayer, or perhaps reliving the spicy curry. So, imagine my thrill when I heard that the third-generation has opened up a New Castle Curry, still in Ginza, a few blocks away from the old location.

New Castle was packed when I came in recently for lunch. Many of the customers were obviously regulars as they didn’t even have to call out a station name like “Omori”, but just said that they’ll have the usual. I started off with a green salad and had the Kamata (photo above) for 740 JPY. For Japanese curries it is on the spicy side. The menu suggests first trying just the curry, then some curry with rice, and finally with the egg.

This new spot can not be compared to the old spot as it had so much charm and character, developed over 66 years in one spot. It was a dark restaurant and even the lights felt as if they were covered in dust, giving off only a faint light. The new spot is a long counter overlooking an open kitchen with a few seats off to the side. The back wall of the kitchen is a bright red color. Some bottles of whisky lined the back wall. No one ordered whisky at lunch, but I imagine at dinnertime a few glasses are shared amongst friends.

The family is very warm and welcoming and it’s a great bowl of curry. The location is not as convenient as the old one, which was closer to Yurakucho. The new one is closer to Showa Dori. But, it’s only a few blocks off of Chuo Dori, the main drag of Ginza. The third-generation oversees the kitchen while his father greets the customers and manages the cash register.

The curry is just as I remember it. Spicy, savory, and satisfying. Welcome back New Castle. You have been missed. The shop was closed for about a year before this reincarnation opened last year. Restaurants like this is what makes Tokyo such a great dining city. Great food that has been passed down for generations. The energy in the new spot is very different from the last one. It feels as it has new life and a renewed spirit.

In this Japanese blogpost, you’ll find a lovely photo of the second- and third-generations, as well as photos of the outside of the shop so it is easy to find.

Ginza New Castle

Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-11-1, Ginza Land Building B1

03-6264-0885

Tuesday – Friday 11:30 – 20:00

Saturday and Sunday 11:30 – 17:00

closed Monday and holidays

Ginza Maru 銀座圓

Maru1

In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, Gwen Robinson mentions a newly opened restaurant in Ginza that serves traditional Japanese lunches for only $10. She doesn’t mention the name of the restaurant in the article, but does talk about the chef, Keiji Mori, so with some research, in both English and Japanese, I found Ginza Maru. It is just off the main street of Ginza. It is a few shops down from the popular Kyushu Jangara ramen and close to a revolving sushi shop. The shop is easy to miss as it is on the second floor. Be on the lookout for the name of the shop in Japanese 圓 on a sign on the building.

The shop is a respite from the busy streets of Ginza. My girlfriend and I arrived early and were waiting outside of the shop and they kindly invited us in a bit before their opening time. There is a long counter overlooking the open kitchen and several tables. A good spot to dine solo or with a friend at the counter or come in with a group and dine at a table. We were directed to sit at a table but I asked if it would be possible to sit at the counter and were seated there.

The starters for all of the lunch sets was a creamy sesame tofu made with kuzu and a tart sunomono salad made from lotus root, young leeks, and deep-fried tofu in a karashi su miso, a classic dressing of Japanese mustard, vinegar, and sweet miso.
Maru2

Sitting at the counter allows diners to watch the chefs in action. Today the chefs were pushing cooked yurine (lily bulb) through a fine sieve and grating mountain potatoes. There is a charcoal grill with a strong exhaust vent over it where fish was skewered and grilled. Being at the counter it is also easy to interact with the chefs about ingredient provenance and cooking techniques.

Maru3

The tori-suki-nabe is a chicken dish that resembles sukiyaki which is traditionally made with thin-sliced beef. It is a generous portioned dish and included the gizzard of the chicken as well as a soft-cooked egg. It was a very dramatic presentation as the nabe is a large and flat ceramic pot and was covered when it was presented.

Maru4

The buta-kaku-ni is a pork belly that is cooked until tender and served with simmered daikon and greens in a sweet, soy kuzu sauce. The other option today at lunch was a salt-grilled Pacific mackerel.Maru5The chefs were very easy to talk to. I believe the chef on the right spoke some English as I overheard him trying to explain the menu to a foreign couple. As we finished the meal I asked the two chefs if they had seen the article in the New York Times. They had not seen it yet. I gave them the newspaper and did a quick translation of the mention of the shop in the piece. He laughed and pointed around the room and said it explained why there were so many new, foreign customers to the restaurant that day. We were there the day after the Op-Ed piece came out. When we left there were three pairs of non-Japanese dining at the restaurant. He also said that he would have to start studying more English.

Ginza Maru is a great bargain for lunch. The restaurant does not take reservations at lunch. Dinner starts at a very reasonable 6,000 JPY for a course menu. It is in the heart of Ginza and easy to find by following the map on the restaurant’s website. Definitely will be back for lunch, and look forward to trying dinner.

Ginza Maru

Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-12-15

03-5537-7420

Sukiyabashi Jirō

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Jeffrey Merrihue, Jirō Ono, Yukari Sakamoto

My journey to Sukiyabashi Jirō started almost a year ago. Last February I was contacted by the Chowzter website to be the Tokyo Chowzter. I was happy to join this amazing team of chowzters and helped to suggest my favorite spots in Tokyo here. Chowzter will help you in many parts of the world. Over the course of the year I have met people behind the scenes at Chowzter as well as London Chowzter, Niamh Shields, cookbook author and brilliance behind Eat Like a Girl. Chowzter founder, Jeffrey Merrihue, as been very hands on from the beginning. I remember a while back Jeffrey e-mailing me and asking if I had been to Sukiyabashi Jirō. I said no, and that I would love to go someday, especially if Jeffrey sponsor my meal. He said that when he was in Tokyo we would go. While I did not hold my breath, I never forgot, and kept waiting for news of his arrival.

Well, the great news came. Jeffrey was coming to Tokyo. He was going to be here for a week to film chef Yoshihiro Narisawa for a documentary. He managed to get a 7:00 p.m. reservation for two at Sukiyabashi Jirō in the busy month of December. We arrived a bit before 7:00 p.m. and I pointed out to Jeffrey the two other restaurants that share the hallway with Sukiyabashi Jirō. Birdland, one of my favorite yakitori restaurants in Tokyo (it’s in my book, Food Sake Tokyo) and Nodaiwa, a branch of the 5th-generation unagi restaurant. And, these three restaurants share the same bathroom in the hallway. The bathroom is far below Michelin three-star standards. But, who cares?

In the taxi on our way to the restaurant we discussed the upcoming dinner.

“Don’t take photos,” I suggested.

Do expect a fast meal. “40 minutes?” asked Jeffrey.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it is less than 30 minutes.”

We walked in promptly at 7:00 p.m. and were seated at the counter, right in front of the master. This thrilled me as I have heard of some people dining there and having their sushi made by the son and not Jirō. It’s a simple restaurant. Only ten seats at the counter and a few tables to the side. It’s not in the Ginza subway as is often misreported. It is in the basement of a building. The access to the basement happens to be a stairwell that leads to the massive subway station that is underground the Ginza shopping district.

Seated next to us were two Japanese businessmen and at the end of the counter, an Asian couple.

We were asked if there was anything we couldn’t eat and I said that I was allergic to shrimp. The son told me that I would not be getting the kuruma-ebi or the tamago as it is made with shrimp. I nodded in agreement. The son told Jirō that I would not be having these two courses and Jirō nodded.

We ordered a beer, enjoyed a well-deserved kampai toast, and washed our hands with the warm wet towels.

There was a small wet paper napkin at each seating to wipe your fingers with between pieces.

There were three behind the counter. Jirō, his son, and a young apprentice. The young boy helped keep things running smoothly by wiping down our trays every now and then and fetching our beers. The son cut all of the seafood and would lay the cut pieces on Jirō’s cutting board. Jirō would then form the vinegared rice to the texture of a soft pillow, added the cut seafood, and serve it to each of us. The only pieces the son made were the gunkan, or pieces with nori, like the uni.

At the beginning of the meal there was a nice rhythm going with Jirō serving each of the six customers in order. But, at some point, the Asian couple slowed down the pace at which they were eating and the rhythm was awry. The rest of the four of us finished our meal together. I didn’t notice, but Jeffrey said that at one point Jirō had put more than one piece of sushi in front of the Asian guy. A minor slap of the wrist?

At the end of the meal we were asked if there was anything else we would like to have. I was hoping to try kinmedai (splendid alfonsino) or tako (octopus). I asked if we could order anything that wasn’t on today’s menu and was told no. So we said that we were finished. Jeffrey looked down at his watch and said, “twenty-nine minutes”.

We were escorted to a table where the perfect dessert was waiting for us. A slice of ripe melon. You know the ones that can sell for hundreds of dollars a piece at department stores or fruit specialty stores. The best way to end the meal.

Menu for Monday, December 16, 2013

hirame – olive flounder

sumi-ika – cuttlefish

kanburi – winter yellowtail

akami – tuna

chūtoro – medium-fatty tuna

ōtoro – fatty tuna

kohada – gizzard shad

mushi-awabi – steamed abalone

aji – horse mackerel

kuruma ebi – Japanese imperial prawn

akagai – ark shell

saba – Pacific mackerel

hamaguri – common Orient clam

iwashi – sardine

uni – sea urchin

kobashira – baby scallops

ikura – salmon roe

anago – sea eel

tamagoyaki – omelet with shrimp

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Japanese muskmelons, like this one, are the perfect finish to any meal. Juicy, sweet, and unforgettable. I love as this is the only photo of food that was taken this night. I know Jeffrey wanted very much to take a photo of one of the pieces of sushi.

Jiro Menu1

Sukiyabashi Jirō – Honjitsu no Omakase

Jiro Menu2

Menu for Monday, December 16, 2013.

Jiro Menu3

I really enjoyed our meal. And, I am still thinking about some of the pieces I had, three weeks later. Some of the highlights for me were the kanburi (winter yellowtail) that melted in my mouth. The hikarimono (silvery fish) like kohada (gizzard shad) and saba (Pacific mackerel) were seasoned just right, a bit salty and a nice tartness from the vinegar. The clams were especially delightful. The akagai (ark shell) is a red clam that had a nice crunchiness to it and the hamaguri was cooked just right and dressed with a sweet tare (soy reduction). The anago (sea eel) was so tender I have no idea how it was cut and picked up.

I was not served the two shrimp courses and thought I would get something in lieu, but did not. Oh well. C’est la vie. When the first shrimp course came around and there were only three pieces of shrimp on Jirō’s cutting board he asked where the fourth piece was. His son, kindly reminded him that I was not going to have any of the shrimp courses. Jirō then said he forgot, and the son had a small laugh, reminding his father that he is becoming forgetful. I shared this with Jeffrey and we all enjoyed the moment.

After we finished our melon we paid our compliments, “gochisō sama deshita”. The son went behind the register to collect payment and Jirō waited for us outside. He was gracious to let us shower him with compliments and posed for the photo that so many fans must ask him for.

I’ve spoken with many people who’ve eaten here. Some are disappointed that the meal is so fast. So, if you want to dine here, expect a quick meal. If you want to linger over your sushi, there are several other restaurants of this caliber who will let you take your time. I have also heard that he’s not nice to you unless you come in with a regular customer. I would have to disagree with that as the staff, including Jirō, were very kind to us.

Jirō is a shokunin, a skilled craftsman, and his art is sushi. My take-away from the night was that his time left at the restaurant is limited and I am glad that we could experience a meal with the master sushi chef. I will remember this evening for a long time. I am sure that I will be talking about the meal long after I forget it. But it is the experience that I will never forget.

Sukiyabashi Jiro1Sukiyabashi Jirō

Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-2-15, Tsukamoto Sogyō Bldg. B1

03-3535-3600 (+81-3-3535-3600 from abroad)

If wanting to make a reservation, check the website as they will say if they are fully booked for that month and when they start taking reservations for the next month.

Postscript notes:

As my friend Jeffrey says, “it was a religious experience”.

Another friend has just gotten reservations for an upcoming meal at Sukiyabashi Jirō. He writes that, “I’m trying not to have too high expectations, but simply enjoying the moment”. Wise man. If you are curious as to how this smart guy got a reservation at Jirō, he got it through this website: http://www.food-tourism-japan.com/our-service-fee.html Sadly the food-tourism service is no longer being offered. Your best bet to get a reservation here is to stay at a hotel with a great concierge or to have a credit card concierge company call on your behalf. UPDATED 7 November 2014

Ginza Sake no Ana 銀座酒の穴

酒の穴

Some of my clients are interested in learning a bit about saké during their visit to Tokyo. However, finding somewhere in Tokyo that serves a wide selection of saké during lunch is challenging. Most of the tours we offer start at Tsukiji Market which is of course only takes place in the morning.
Sake no Ana 酒の穴 is in John Gauntner’s great book, The Sake Handbook. And, is conveniently located in Ginza, a short walk from Tsukiji Market.
The full menu is available during lunch. This menu features a lot of saké-friendly food. As it is winter that includes fugu kara-agé (deep-fried fugu), salted and grilled buri collar (yellowtail), shirako ponzu (milt), ika shiokara (squid innards), and aji hone-sembei (deep-fried bones of horse mackerel). The restaurant also recommends natto omelet. There is also a nice selection of set menu (teishoku) options which includes soup, rice, and a variety of side dishes.
Sake Sommelier Sakamoto-san
Saké Sommelier Sakamoto-san (photo from prior tasting)
When you arrive, ask for the saké sommelier, Sakamoto-san (sadly, no relation). He’s very knowledgeable and will bring out a variety of saké for your group to try. He always introduces a unique and often hard-t0-source saké.
Before you leave, be sure to take a look at the glass-doored refrigerators to see the selection of saké here. It is towards the back of the restaurant on your left hand side.
This day we had the following:
1. Jikon Tokubetsu Junmaishu Nigorizake Nama from Mie
而今特別純米酒 にごり酒生
http://www.syusendo-horiichi.co.jp/zikon/zikon1.htm (scroll down, it’s the cloudy one)
Slightly sweet, this unfiltered nigorizaké was the perfect aperitif. It is nama or unpasteurized, so something you’ll only find in Japan. Sakamoto-san said that this Jikon brand is a very sought after label in Japan and hard to find. It is exactly for this reason that I like to come to Sake no Ana. The collection of sake is very impressive.
2. Hiroki Junmai Ginjo from Fukushima
飛露喜 純米吟醸
http://www.hechima.co.jp/~souta/hiroki/kura_shokai.html (scroll down, half way down is Hiroki)
Medium dry, this had a nice acidity to it and a perfect transition from the nigorizaké.
3. Ooroku Junmaishu Karakuchi from Shimane
王祿純米酒 辛口
As the name says, “karakuchi” is a dry saké and a bit more bold on the palate.
4. Kokuryu Ishidaya Junmai Daiginjo 5 Nen Koshu
黒龍 石田屋 純米大吟醸 5年古酒
We were discussing koshu and aging saké at the table. Sakamoto-san overheard us talking and brought out this very interesting koshu that I’ve never seen or tried before. It is aged five years and Sakamoto-san said that the emperor of Japan is a fan of this saké. Very rich and impressive saké.
Sake no Ana 酒の穴
Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-5-8
03-3567-1133
Earlier posts on Sake no Ana:

Sushi on Sunday in Tokyo

*** updated 2016 November

As Tsukiji Market is closed on Sundays many sushi restaurants also take the opportunity to give the staff a day off. That doesn’t mean that sushi isn’t eaten on Sundays in Tokyo.

There are several places to look to for sushi on Sunday and national holidays. Check out hotels, department stores, and large train stations. Here is a shortlist of where to go on Sunday for sushi in Tokyo.

すきやばし次郎 Sukiyabashi Jiro at Nihonbashi Takashimaya is a branch of the famous Michelin 3-star Sukiyabashi Jiro in Ginza. Nigiri or chirashi sets start at 3,150 JPY – a bargain compared to what you will pay in Ginza.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-4-1, Nihonbashi Takashimaya Honkan (Main Bldg.) 4F

03-3211-4111

11:00 – 19:00 (last order at 18:30)

Sukiyabashi Jiro is also at Roppongi Hills.

築地青空三代目 Tsukiji Aozora Sandaime at Ginza Mitsukoshi is a branch of a third generation restaurant from Tsukiji’s outer market.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-6-16, Ginza Mitsukoshi 11F

03-3561-7021

11:00 – 23:00 (last order 22:30)

魯山 Rozan at Shinjuku Isetan

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-14-1, Shinjuku Isetan 7F

03-3226-0115

11:00 – 16:00; 17:00 – 22:00 (last order 21:15)

Call ahead to make sure these restaurants are open. This was posted in 2012.

Updates (2016 Nov 3)

Seamon is a sushiya with branches in Ginza and in Nihonbashi that is also open on Sunday. I haven’t been, but several clients have and say they like the sushi here. Details in English here:

http://www.eok.jp/restaurants-bars/fine-dining/japanese/seamon/

On national holidays and Sundays, we sometimes go to the cheap chains. They are often popular with families, so best to allow time to wait in line if you go at peak meal times – 12 noon for lunch and 6 p.m. for dinner.

Sushi Zanmai with branches throughout the city.

http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/

Midori Sushi with branches throughout the city.

http://www.sushinomidori.co.jp/tenpo_e.html

Antenna Shops in Ginza

updated 25 September 2017

If you are looking for jizake or shochu from a small producer or an artisanal miso the first place to check out are the antenna shops. Markets that specialize in regional products, usually from a specific prefecture. The Okinawa antenna shop in Ginza has a huge selection of awamori and the Miyazaki antenna shop in Shinjuku brings in a limited amount of premium shochu on the first of each month. Seafood, meat, and fresh produce as well are often sold. Some of the shops will have a restaurant or an eat-in corner. The Yamagata antenna shop has a branch of it’s famous Italian restaurant using Yamagata products.

Here is a list of antenna shops in Ginza, the area with the most number of shops. Here is a list of antenna shops in Nihonbashi.

Osaka Hyakkaten

Over 600 items and an eat-in corner with takoyaki and butaman.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 1F

03-5220-1333

10:00 – 22:00

Tokushima and Kagawa Tomoni Ichiba

Sanuki udon, somen, Tokushima ramen, sudachi, jizake, and more.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 1F

03-6269-9688

10:30 – 19:30

Hyogo Waku Waku Kan

Tako no kamaage, oden packs, Higashimaru udon, vegetables, and more.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan B1

03-6273-4133

10:00 – 19:00

Iki Iki Toyama Kan

Over 800 items including masu sushi.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan B1

03-3231-5032

10:00 – 19:00

Wakayama Kishukan

Over 50 types of umeboshi, jizake, and fruit.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan B1

03-3216-1615

10:00 – 19:00

Iwate Ginka Plaza

Over 1,500 items, including a Koiwa soft cream corner.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-15-1, Nankai Tokyo Bldg. 1F

03-3254-8282

10:30 – 19:00

Gunma-chan Chi

Produce, sweets, and jizake with an event space on the 2nd floor.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-13-19, Duplex Ginza Tower 5/13

03-3546-8511

10:00 – 19:00

Oishii Yamagata Plaza

Jizake, fruits, vegetables, and an Italian restaurant incorporating Yamagata’s produce by star chef Masayuki Okuda at San Dan Delo.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-5-10, Ginza First Five Bldg.

03-5250-1752

10:00 – 20:00

Hiroshima Setouchi Tau

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki sauce, popular momiji maple leaf sweet buns, oysters (frozen or in oil), Yukari red shiso furikake and two eat-in restaurants. 2nd floor for Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki and 1st floor for shiru-nashi ramen, a style popular in Hiroshima and harder to find in Tokyo.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-6-10

03-5579-9952

Kagoshima Yurakukan

A large selection of shochu, restaurant, and much more.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 1-6-4, Chiyoda Bldg. 1-3F

03-3580-8821

hours vary

Tottori Plaza

Rakkyo, nagaimo, seafood, Italian restaurant featuring Tottori products, and more than 1,500 items.

Minato-ku, Shinbashi 2-19-4 SNT Bldg.

03-5537-0575

10:00 – 21:00

Ginza Kumamoto Kan

Fruits and vegetable, seafood products, and more than 1,000 items. ASOBI Bar on the 2nd floor featuring Kumamoto shochu, basashi (horsemeat sashimi), and karashi renkon.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-3-16

03-3572-1261

11:00 – 20:00

ASOBI Bar 17:00 – 20:00

Marugoto Kochi

Sweets, jizake, and a restaurant on the 2nd floor.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-3-13, Ri-burekkusu Tower

03-3538-4351

hours vary

Okinawa Ginza Washita Shop

An impressive selection of awamori in the basement and fresh produce such as go-ya.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-3-9, Maruito Ginza Bldg.

03-3535-6991

10:30 – 20:00

Maguronald まぐろナルド

Maguronald

Maguronald

With an awesome name like Maguronald, which sounds an awful like lot McDonald’s when pronounced in Japanese, this is definitely worth checking out. Maguro, or of course, tuna, is the specialty of this small 20 seat restaurant in Ginza. It is open for lunch and dinner and closed on Sunday and holidays. And affordable, budget about 1,000 or 2,000 JPY per person. Beer, shochu, and sake is served.

The menu is very simple, tuna zuke (sashimi marinated in soy) donburi (rice bowl), chutoro, sashimi, tatsuta-age (think fried chicken made from tuna), and tuna yakitori. There are some vegetable side dishes as well.

A lot of this is food we often eat at home, especially the sashimi and the tuna zuke donburi. It’s really comfort food and if you like tuna, you’ll love Maguronald.

No website yet, just a facebook page.

Maguronald

Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-13-3

Phone: 03-3546-0012

 

Food Gifts – Omiyage from Tokyo 東京のお土産

Omiyage most often describes gifts that you pick up while traveling that you bring back to your family, friends, and colleagues. For example, on a trip to Kyoto I may select some local jizake or wagashi for friends. For my colleagues at work I may pick up a box of yatsuhashi, a popular confectionary that Kyoto is known for.

It is important when selecting gifts that they are purchased at the correct price. You don’t want to give a gift that is too expensive or the recipient may feel the need to reciprocate, often referred to as okaeshi. I learned about this while working at Takashimaya. The occasion determines not only how much would be spent on a gift, but also how it may be wrapped.

If you need to send a gift to someone bring along their address and phone number. Most shops will arrange for a delivery service, many times for next-day delivery.

The gift-giving ritual in Japan is for another blog post, so for now, just my tips on what to look for and some suggestions for some of my favorite gifts from Tokyo. And as we enter the holidays, if you are invited to a friend’s home, consider bringing along one of the items listed below as a show of your appreciation.

Tips – look for gentei or limited production items. Shun or kisetsu are used to describe seasonal items. Alternatively, koko de shika meaning that the produce is sold only there or ima shika – that it is only being sold for a limited period.

Some popular omiyage at the moment include Baumkuchen, sweets in the form of a small sandwich, or rusks which are toasts, usually sweetened with sugar and maybe some butter.

Here are my favorite gifts from Tokyo.

Sawanoi Bon

Sawanoi Bon

Tokyo has a surprising number of sake kura (breweries) and this always makes for a nice gift for anyone who appreciates nihonshu. My personal favorite Tokyo sake is Sawa no I from Ome in Okutama (Western Tokyo in the mountains). On a personal note, I love this sake so much we served it at our wedding. Sake can be purchased at the sake department in depachika. Alternatively, Hasegawa Saketen is a wonderful sake shop with a few branches in the city.

Japanese knives are the perfect gift for anyone who loves to cook. Here is my list of knife shops in Tokyo.

Nishiki Hourin Karintou

Nishiki Hourin Karintou

Karintou from Nishiki Hourin.   These sweet crackers come in flavors like shichimi tougarashi (seven spice), negi miso (leek and miso), kinpira gobo (burdock root and carrot), and kuro koshou (black pepper). The shop is in Tokyo station’s basement in an area called GranSta. It’s easy to find as there is usually a long line. The karintou are sold in small packs so it is fun to pick up a few different flavors. This is an example of koko shika as the karintou can only be bought here – nowhere else in the world.

Yoku Moku Cigare

Yoku Moku Cigare

Yoku Moku is a Japanese confectionary shop specializing in Western confectionaries. In particular, I love their cigares which are sold in pastel tins. Think delicately thin butter cookies rolled into a cigare. I often bring this as an omiyage as a hostess gift. Yoku Moku can be found in almost every depachika.

Confectionary West

Confectionary West

Leaf Pie from Confectionary West are another popular Western style cookie that is rich with butter and sugar. The main branch is in Ginza but most depachika also sell these addictive cookies.

Mamegen's Shiokaki

Mamegen’s Shiokaki

For some savory osembei (rice crackers)  look no further than the shiokaki from Mamegen in Azabu Juban. I usually buy these as omiyage for myself. Like Doritos or whatever chips you are addicted to, you can’t stop once you start. Mamegen is known for their flavored nuts and beans in fun flavors like wasabi, mattcha, or uni. Mamegen also can be found in most depachika.

For traditional wagashi (Japanese confectionaries) I always find myself going to Suzukake in Shinjuku Isetan. I am a sucker for its simple packaging and no matter what you get, it is always delicious. In particular, ask for the seasonal  nama wagashi.

For more modern wagashi, check out the mattcha babaloa from Kinozen in Kagurazaka or the confectionaries at Higashiya Ginza.

Yagenbori

Yagenbori

For a special gift, create your own shichimi (seven spice) from Yagenbori in Asakusa (Asakusa 1-28-3). The shop sells its own recommended version, but you can develop your own flavor on the spot. Be sure to pick up a wooden dispenser while there (see photo above).

Lemon's Grapefruit Jelly

Lemon’s Grapefruit Jelly

Finally, for a real treat, select some seasonal fresh fruit from Sembikiya or Lemon or Takano. Melon is perhaps the most famous food gift, notably for its price which can be a few hundred dollars for one. But there are a variety of fruit that changes throughout the season and at a variety of prices. My cousin is a big fan of the fruit jellies which are packaged in the shell of the fruit.

Got a question about my favorite nori shop in Tsukiji Market. It is Maruyama and their information is listed below in the comments section.

Perhaps the most popular food gift at the moment from Tokyo Station for visitors to Japan is the regional flavored Kit Kats. I list the shop in this Metropolis article.